"The New Deadwardians" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Vertigo Comics
Originally Published as The New Deadwardians #1 - #8
Written by Dan Abnett
Illustrated by I.N.J. Culbard
2012, 162 Pages
Trade Paperback released on February 12th, 2013
Another day, another zombie comic. Such is the way of the world in today's funny book industry. Fortunately, there are still some fresh ideas on this undead corpse. One such daisy is The New Deadwardians from Dan Abnett and illustrator I.N.J. Culbard. Set in England in 1910, the comic centers on Chief Inspector George Suttle, who is tasked with investigating what could be the very last murder Scotland Yard ever sees. A corpse turns up, but it's not your run-of-the-mill body. It's that of a vampire and it wasn't killed by sunlight or a stake through the heart.
So where do the zombies come in? It seems that about fifty years prior, they just started popping up. No one knows why or how, but the dead started to rise. To combat this, British troops started to turn themselves into vampires. This masked their scent to the undead and thus allowed them to fight off the hordes easier. Now they live in an age where the zombies are still very much a part of their lives, but they're kept behind large gates in separate zones, allowing the people of England to go about their day.
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All of this sounds pretty cool to start with, but what sets The New Deadwardians apart is how painfully British it can be. Abnett doesn't use words like "vampire" or "zombie." Instead, they're dubbed the "Young" and the "Restless", respectively. Normal people are called "Brights" and a zombie attack is a "Zone B Incident." The vampire virus itself is named the "Cure" and the urge to drink blood is labeled as "tendencies." It's all so very proper, isn't it? Being that I'm an ignorant American, I imagine that this is how all British people would handle a zombie invasion.
There's a bit of class warfare mixed in to The New Deadwardians as well. The Young live forever, setting themselves apart from the Brights, presumably using the fortunes they've built up over the years. They live in separate zones, but they are not equal. The Brights have been staging protests lately looking for better housing.
The mystery angle pulled the story along, but George Suttle is no Sherlock Holmes. He's a stuck up, high society man, who happens to be a vampire. He delves into a deep conspiracy involving several upper class families in the area, but does so with a stiff upper lip. I can't tell if this is because he's a vampire or because he's British. He lets loose just once in the comic and he's a new man as a result. Abnett nails the monotony and utter boredom that can come from immortality. Suttle has seen everything and yearns for the appetite for anything new, be it food, art, or women. That drive is gone.
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Culbard's artwork matches up with this prim and proper storyline. Everything is finely detailed and in its place. The zombies appear sparingly throughout the comic, but Culbard uses them wisely, shocking you out of the rigid societal talks that presided their appearance. The undead don't belong in this world. They look horrid and stand out like a sore thumb in the clean streets of London.
The New Deadwardians mixes a straight up murder mystery with a supernatural angle and a bit of class warfare. It's a believable take on how the British might have handled a full on zombie invasion at the beginning of the 20th century. It can be a bit droll at times, as Suttle struggles to pull clues from what little he has to work with. I would have preferred a more rambunctious detective as seen in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, but of course, that was played by Robert Downey Jr. and now I'm once again being a typical American. USA! USA! USA!